I went out to the Renaissance Festival for one weekend this year. My hairdresser, Gloria Jones, had the idea to share a tent with me. I would sell my piratey books, and she would offer glitter tattoos--she added a few piratey ones for my benefit.
Despite being exactly two weekends before International Talk Like A Pirate Day, Labor Day weekend was themed "Passport to Adventure," with an emphasis on pirates. (MN) Captain Hector Barbossa came by with the much-loved copy of The Wrath of Brotherhood he'd bought from me at Convgergence. He told me it's his new favorite book and that it inspired him, and he wanted to help me market it any way he could--including doing a reading out at the Renaissance Festival. Unlike his character, this guy is just a passionate, nice guy, and he goes the extra mile for the things and people he cares about.
So in theory, it was the perfect weekend to be out there.
In practice, we were competing with the Minnesota State Fair, as well as the weather. It rained on and off for part of Saturday and more of Sunday, but the hardcore Fest-goers weren't daunted. Still, rather than an anticipated 50,000 attendees, I'd guess we had closer to 15,000, and most on Labor Day. On top of that, this is the first year that the International Bazaar area was moved to the much-less-trafficked Green. Still, we did our best to be seen. Gloria's husband, David, made this spectacular banner for us, and as it is the title for my series of books, it will continue to be useful for a good long while.
Not only did he make that banner; he also made this flag, which is very close to the privateer flag described in my book. Again, this will continue to be useful, and I didn't ask for any of this. Just nice people helping me out.
Gloria's glitter tattoo area suffered similarly from the weather, but thrived in the perfect Labor Day weather. A lot more families with kids came out that day, and she did better that day than the whole rest of the weekend. (MN) Captain Blackbeard had to get a Hello Kitty Pirate glitter tattoo, which left him with a Hello Kitty Pirate white patch under his new tan. Meanwhile, I forgot to sunscreen the part of my chest that's usually covered. Tascha's handmade shirt left me open to a nice V-shaped burn, with a white patch where my pirate medallion hung, but it was a small price to pay.
All in all, while I definitely made a profit, I got nowhere near the goal I'd set. Granted, this was based on very little information. I did not set my so far attainable goal at 5% of total attendance like I do at sci-fi/fantasy conventions, but even cutting that by a factor of 10, I fell far short with 30 hardcover book sales in 30 total hours of the Festival. People did seem surprised to find an author there with books for sale. It's not something that's done at outdoor festivals very much, and my interactions with people did draw significant interest from readers. Several ran out of cash, so I cautioned them to watch my website for my International Talk Like A Pirate Day book promotion.
The experience at the Renaissance Festival was more useful than it was profitable, and it was overall positive. I am genuinely grateful whenever someone decides my book is worth the (almost) blind purchase, and I want to do what I can for those who become fans. It is likely I'll be back at MN Ren Fest again sometime, perhaps next year, but on a different weekend when nothing else is going on. I hope to be at DragonCon for the next Labor Day weekend, and if Gloria et al decide they want to do this again, I'd be happy to do it the following weekend--after the State Fair and before Sever's Corn Maze. However, the cost/benefit of outdoor festivals, and the fact that most fair-weather attendees are there for their kids and don't look twice at most merchandise, makes me inclined to bow out of the Gasparilla Pirate Invasion in Tampa and the Midwest Pirate Festival in the Omaha area. Conventions are simply more reliable and not subject to weather issues.
I did sell several eBooks on the spot to those who wanted to earn their Colombian coin. I may run out of those at my events in the next couple of months, but don't worry all, I'll be back in Colombia in December and will get a lot more of them. For those who have been reading The Wrath of Brotherhood and following my progress here, I should mention that I'm considering having a promotion for my next book when it comes out--a promotion that relates to reviews. I'm not sure what shape it will take yet, but I expect I'll give a discount to those who leave a review on either Amazon or Goodreads (or one of the eBook distributors if that's what they bought). Those who leave a review in both places will most likely get something extra. Not a bad deal for bashing out a few sentences and a star rating. Okay, hopefully not literally A star rating, but then anyone leaving me a single star isn't likely to care about discounts for book 2. So far don't have one of those, and I'm confident I won't get one for a while yet, so the rest of you: don't forget those reviews!
I'm leaving tomorrow for Archon 39 in Collinsville, IL, just outside of Saint Louis. I'm pretty pumped about it, and I'll let you all know how it goes!